The Cafe de Paris

Cruising the Past:  Historical look at London’s famous Café de Paris. The Cafe is a London nightclub, opened in 1924, which over the years has featured such performers as Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Gold, Harry Roy, Ken Snakehips Johnson, Bert Ambrose, and Maxine Cooper Gomberg. Louise Brooks made history when she worked there in December 1924, introducing the Charleston (dance) to London.



A video of the CAFE DE PARIS – FROM A MOVIE FILMED IN THE 1930s.

Cafe De Paris, in London’s Piccadilly is one of the most famous and durable venues in the world. With a glittering history, spanning nine decades, the Cafe has consistently played host to a wide variety of powerful and absorbing performers and guests, members of the aristocracy, eminent political figures, dazzling pop stars, captains of industry, superstars from the silver screen and even royalty.

Café de Paris is a London nightclub, opened in 1924, which over the years has featured such performers as Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Gold, Harry Roy, Ken Snakehips Johnson, Bert Ambrose,[citation needed] and Maxine Cooper Gomberg. Louise Brooks made history when she worked there in December 1924, introducing the Charleston (dance) to London.

(Left) Orson Welles dancing with Vivien Leigh. Opening its doors in 1924 under the control of London impresario Harry Foster, the Cafe de Paris quickly established itself as one of Europe’s premier nightspots.

Much of the early success was due to a visit from the Prince of Wales, who after an impromptu midweek visit became a regular guest bringing with him the cram de la cram of European society.

The fusion of a beautiful and elite audience with energetic and groundbreaking cabaret performances separated the venue from its rivals. The main aim of the Cafe De Paris was to see and be seen-a trait that continues even now.

Cafe de Paris during the 1950s.

Liberace at the Cafe de Paris.

The success of the Cafe continued right through the 1930’s, with a whole new host of powerful and successful figures joining the Cafe Society.

The Aga Khan became a frequent visitor as did Lord and Lady Mountbatten, who nearly always ordered the same dinner of “a dozen and a half oysters and steak Diane”.

Due to its’ burgeoning reputation, the top vocalists and cabaret acts from around the world became easy to lure to the Cafe De Paris. The legendary Cole Porter became a regular, and used the venue not only to entertain the top singers of the time, but also to showcase his new songs, often for the very first time.

Princess Margaret leaving the Cafe de Paris.

In 1939 the Cafe was allowed to stay open even though theatres and cinemas were closed by order.

People gossiped their way through the blackout and the Cafe was advertised as a safe haven by Martin Poulson, the maitre d’, who argued that the four solid storeys of masonry above were ample protection.

This tragically proved to be untrue on March 8th 1941 when two 50K landmines came through the Rialto roof straight onto the Cafe dance floor.

A bombed out Cafe de Paris, 9th March 1941

Eighty people were killed, including Ken ‘Snakehips’ Johnston who was performing onstage at the time and Poulson whose words had come back to haunt him.

Had the bomb been dropped an hour later, the casualties would have been even higher.

MARLENE DIETRICH, CAFE DE PARIS, LONDON, 1955

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About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.

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